Should you be including preschool writing activities in your early childhood classroom? Yes! Experts agree preschool is the prime time to start learning basic skills and develop a love for the art of writing.
A report from the U.S. Department of Education (What Works: Research about Teaching and Learning, second edition, 1987) states, "Children who are encouraged to draw and scribble 'stories' at an early age will later learn to compose more easily, more effectively, and with greater confidence than children who do not have this encouragement."
The above report also states the following (p. 9):
If you keep preschool writing activities positive, encouraging and at the child's developmental level, it will be not only an enjoyable experience but one that children will look forward to participating in!
Below you will find more information about what to expect preschoolers to be able to do in their writing, along with ideas for teaching preschool writing and where to find practice worksheets and other resources.
When we, as adults, prepare to write, we like to make sure we have all the supplies and utensils ready...children are not different! If they have the necessary supplies within reach, they are more likely to use them, experiment with them, and find creative uses for them.
Here are some writing supplies to have available for your preschoolers to use:
After children have had some time to experiment with their preschool writing supplies, follow up by asking what they like to use best. Do they like the big, thick crayons or the thin ones? Do they like to use lined paper or construction paper? You can use the feedback they give you to adjust your teaching accordingly.
Do you have a Preschool Writing Interest Center? I have written an article that discusses how to set yours up and what children learn in that center! CLICK HERE for the Writing Center Interest Center Article.
Like many things in life, writing must begin with small baby steps and progress to more advanced skills as the child is ready.
Children develop at varied rates, so it is imperative to remember that you may have 20 children in your classroom on several different levels.
These are the typical stages that a child goes through as a writer. Remember, this is not completely linear. There may be some overlapping between stages (a child may be in more than one stage at a time).
Stage 1: Scribbling
All children begin by holding their writing utensil and dragging it across the page, amazed by how they can change the paper in front of them. Eventually, these marks move on to more developed pictures, which begin to tell a story. At that point, the child may also begin to make "writing marks" or scribbles - they know that writing symbols on paper conveys meaning.
Stage 2: Beginning Symbols
During the next stage, children begin to have an understanding that the meaning on paper is conveyed through letters. They start to make symbols that resemble the letters they are trying to copy.
Stage 3: Letters
Now when a child writes, they are able to include well-formed letters (mostly upper-case), although they may be random and not connected to the words they represent at all.
Stage 4: Beginning Sounds
As children begin to hear the distinction between words, they are often able to decipher the first letter of each word they wish to write.
Stage 5: Consonents to Words
At this point, children are beginning to stretch out the sounds in the words and may include most of the first and/or ending sounds.
Stage 6: Inventive Spelling
Inventive spelling, also referred to as sound spelling or phonetic spelling, shows that children understand that words consist of consonents and vowels. They start to include more of the middle sounds of words.
Stage 7: Transition
This is the middle stage where children are starting to use more sight words in their writing, beginning to use punctuation and capitalization.
Stage 8: Standard Spelling
During this last stage, children are correctly using common spellings, grammar, and basic conventions.
Again, you will likely not see all of these writing stages in your preschool classrooom. Most children do not reach the final stages of writing development until mid-grade school.
However, it can be helpful to know where your children are heading so you can guide them along their path to becoming better writers.
There are many activities that you can use to teach preschool writing, depending on the skill that you are focusing on. Here are some of my favorites, sorted by topic:
Fine Motor Skills:
Cut apart the segments of a comic strip. Ask your child to put the segments back in order. Talk about why the pieces have to go in a certain order to make sense. To take it further, you can have your child to fill in the words of the characters - either orally or by "writing."
Read a familiar story to children (like a fairy tale). Give them pre-made pictures of the main events of the story out of order. Have them glue the pictures in correct order onto a piece of paper that has numbered boxes (so the children know where to put the pictures).
Have children practice writing their letters and numbers in a variety of mediums. I am not a supporter of preschoolers sitting in a group at the table, rotely printing letters over and over. Very little is learned in this manner.
Here are some age appropriate, hands-on ways to help with letter recognition, letter formation and development of fine/gross motor hand skills:
Of course, part of preschool writing is learning how to print. There are many places that you can go to find handwriting worksheets. As I said earlier, I'm not a fan of group "drill and kill" printing exercises in preschool.
However, I DO think practice sheets should be available to those who are ready. In addition, having these sheets available in the writing center, laminated, and offered with low-odor dry erase markers, your children will have the opportunities to practice everyday throughout the day.
You can read more about the many printable resources available to you and ideas on how to use them by going to my Preschool Printables page by clicking here!